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Stem/Islet Cell Implants

Two news items just popped up about implanted, encapsulated beta cells – one of the potential cures lurking tantilizingly on the horizon. Implants would would effectively solve the autoimmune part of T1 (the trickiest part to solve) by shielding the cells from T-cell attack.

And perhaps not so distant – Joshua Levy just posted that this year, 28 people in Argentina will take part in LCT’s second Phase II human trials of implanted, encapsulated pig islet cells. The first phase was moderately successful – people needed little or no insulin for a few weeks to a few months.  (Joshua’s blog is a great resource r.e. potential treatments in human trials – as he points out, mice have been cured over and over again.)

A bit further out (target date – 2013) ViaCyte is proposing Phase 1 trials of an implanted pouch of stem cells that become functioning beta cells. (The article is vague about exactly how and when the stem cells in the pouch get turned into beta cells once implanted.) Yes, they have cured hundreds of mice with this technique. 🙂 But what gives me hope is actually the cautious phrasing of CIRM’s (California Institute of Regenerative Medicine) president: “What people want is a single, one-time cure. I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future.” But, he adds, this might be a step in the right direction.

For some personal accounts from people who’ve had islet cell transplants, check out My New Islets, Hope – I still have it…for stem cells, My Life and My Islets, and Nicole’s Pancreatic Transplant blog.

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